VFNHP Members Reach Out
One important value of our collective strength is in our ability to give back to our local communities and share our capacity for giving with communities in need wherever they are. When opportunity, responsibility and need have collided, we have stepped up to provide vital assistance through donation of both “sweat equity” and necessary financial aid to our various communities in times of need and hardship.
In 2010, our members provided essential disaster relief after an earthquake devastated Haiti and, in 2011, we assisted with the cleanup and recovery efforts after Hurricane Irene inundated Vermont. VFNHP donated $5000 in disaster relief funds to AFT members, and $1000 to UVM Medical Center's United Way matching fund drive. In 2012, our sister organization Vermont Medical Response Team donated more than $5,000 to assist with the Hurricane Sandy disaster. Much of these funds were donated by union members from various union organizations in the region.
VFNHP Disaster Relief
Hurricane Irene August, 2011
For weeks, various VFNHP members worked in Irene devastated communities in Waterbury, Moretown, and the surrounding areas. We heard local organizers greet us with statements like "Oh, it's the nurses! They're always smiling." "We have a special job for you - one that takes great sensitivity, and great strength." Our volunteers helped to clear homes, buck up and remove fallen trees, clean, provide food, monetary donations, and give lots of energetic support.
"Bittersweet Goodbyes": letter home from Jimani.
Read Wilfrid Macena's story here.
Photo credit: Kyle Ferdinand
Within days of the earthquake that struck Port Au Prince, Haiti on January 12, 2010, Vermont Federation of Nurses and Health Professionals was on the ground in full disaster relief mode. From that moment and for every week afterward for 6 months, we sent a new team of disaster relief and health care professionals.
"Of all the Disaster Relief organizations from around the world, Vermont was the best."
International Medical Alliance
Gradually, our work turned from disaster relief to public health. We worked closely with Quisqueya Crisis Relief and JP/HRO to provide public health care to communities in and around Port au Prince, communities that were still struggling many months after the earthquake. While we were doing public health work with our friends at JP/HRO, we were working with AFT national and CTSP - a Haitian public sector trade union, with grants from the Solidarity Center and NYSUT, in building capacity for CTSP's community. Together in late 2010, we began the Workers Solidarity Clinic project in Port Au Prince to provide much needed healthcare to their members. In August of 2011, the Workers' Solidarity Clinic officially opened, seeing more than 100 patients in just a few days.
Jennifer Henry with CTSP leaders Levi Milot & Darlene Tahuest, with nurses
Photo credit: Kyle Ferdinand
We are immensely grateful to all who helped on this journey, including those already mentioned, Jennifer Henry, Vermont Haiti Project, Pat and Jon Erickson, Art and Miquette McMahon, Jamie Cartwright, Beth Milbourne, Tenzin Manell, Ali Lamb, Justine Crowley, Billybert Audige, and then Eric Klein from CAN-DO (they donated the clinic dome), and Alison Thompson from WE ADVANCE - two amazing relief organizations worthy of your attention and donations.
A Great Honor
In 2012, VFNHP was awarded the Bayard Rustin Award at the biennial AFT National Convention for our work in Haiti, both immediately after the earthquake, as well as our continued involvement since. The award is given to an organization or individual whose who have distinguished themselves as exemplars of selfless commitment to promoting human rights and dignity and justice. Bayard Rustin was an organizer and an intellectual and is remembered as a courageous leader in the fields of human rights, civil rights, labor and democracy. In the United States, he is especially well known as a principal organizer of the 1963 March on Washington. However, his interests and accomplishments reached beyond the United States. Throughout his life, he defended democracy and opposed authoritarianism wherever they existed, from South Africa to Poland. This was the first time since the award was created in 1974 that a U.S. local union had been presented with this award. Other recipients since the award began in 1974 include Ernest Green, Civil Rights Activist (1st award), Marian Wright Edelman, President of Children’s Defense Fund, Rep. Shirley Chisholm, N.Y., and the South African Black Movement (Accepted by Cyprian Mahlaba).
“By your side, On your side, Because we care.”
We are all extremely proud of the work we have accomplished together in our community, at UVM Medcial Center, and of our extraordinary achievements reaching out to others. The vitality and strength of our union depends on our members’ unique character and commitment, and we will continue to strive to maintain a strong union for Vermont and for our future.